Indiana University East Implements CPA Center of Excellence® Ethics Course Into Curriculum

March 1, 2017By CPA Center of Excellence® NewsroomNews

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana University East in Richmond, Ind., has partnered with the CPA Center of Excellence® to add its online competency-based ethics course to its current accounting curriculum. This is the first time the course, developed by the CPA Center of Excellence® in 2016, has been utilized in higher education. CPAs in Indiana have been taking the course since last fall following a rule change signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence that enables a competency-based course to meet the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal.

Roger Crane, CPA, director for IU East’s accounting program, championed the decision to include it as part of the program’s curriculum. “We wanted to incorporate an ethics course already used by CPAs so our accounting ethics course is the best it could be,” said Crane. “Anything we can do to get students more real-world exposure to accounting ethics will help them understand and be prepared for ethical situations once they graduate and begin a career.”

Professor Shari Fowler, CPA and instructor for IU East’s accounting program, was also in favor of utilizing the course.

“It is my hope that the addition of the CPA Center of Excellence®’s ethics course will provide a dynamic learning experience for students where they will see how the concepts that we learned from the text are applied in the accounting profession,” said Fowler.

She believes that including the ethics course into IU East’s existing accounting program will serve as a great tool to get students excited about their post-graduation continuing education needs and opportunities.

“I have found that students are always enthusiastic when they are presented with new learning activities in their classes,” Fowler said. “The ethics course is in a format and structure that they have not worked with before, so I anticipate they will be intrigued by this new addition.”

The course is currently being implemented this semester and will be taken by all accounting students during their spring semester before graduation as part of IU East’s accounting program’s capstone Accounting Ethics and Professional Development course.

The CPA Center of Excellence® hopes to use the IU East partnership as a model to encourage other colleges and regional campuses in Indiana to incorporate the ethics course or other competency-based courses into their curriculums. The additional six courses currently offered by the CPA Center of Excellence® cover vital business or “soft” skills needed by current and future professionals.

The course is the first of its kind, based on the profession’s Code of Professional Conduct, with its launch in October 2016 coinciding with the new rule that added two new options for ethics education. Its interactive, online format includes links to online articles, case studies, video components, real-time discussion with other course participants, and other participatory features within each of its various modules.

CPA Center of Excellence® Receives Association Honor for eLearning & Live Training

February 27, 2017By CPA Center of Excellence® NewsroomNews

Indianapolis, IN – The CPA Center of Excellence® was presented with the Silver Award for “eLearning and Live Training” by Association Trends at a ceremony on February, 23, in Washington, D.C. Association Trends, a provider of news and information for association leaders, annually recognizes association excellence across the country through its TRENDS All Media Contest.

The award-winning CPA Center of Excellence® is a wholly-owned subsidiary of INCPAS, established in 2014 to enhance business skills vital to the success of CPAs and other professionals. The components recognized by this award include:

These courses are designed to cultivate the “soft skills” that ultimately are what will help CPAs and other professionals succeed throughout their career by going beyond mere technical knowledge: Communication, Critical Thinking, Decision-Making, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Networking & Collaboration. These online course modules are designed for CPAs and other professionals to take them whenever it’s convenient, and their progress in completing the course is saved as they start and stop at various points. Upon successful completion, a digital badge is awarded.

Competency-Based Ethics Course

The launch of this first-of-its-kind online competency-based course on ethics coincided with the effective date of a landmark rule change that made Indiana CPAs the first CPAs in the nation to be able to take competency-based education as one of three options to meet the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal. The course format is similar to the CPA Center of Excellence®’s other online courses and features interactive content.

Talent Academy

CPA partners, CFOs or those involved in HR often report that they are struggling with recruiting and retaining top talent. To help these companies focus on retention strategies that are innovative, relevant and manageable, the CPA Center of Excellence® hosted a new, live five-day Talent Academy in Indianapolis. The instructor was internationally-recognized thought leader in talent management and knowledge sharing David Griffiths, Ph.D., of Wales who co-authored an award-winning practice management case study based on his prior work with an Indiana CPA firm.

Competency-Based Education Gaining Momentum; Supported by Indiana CPA Society

February 8, 2017By CPA Center of Excellence® NewsroomNews

The movement toward a new learning model for professionals in the state of Indiana continues to gain momentum. Today, draft enabling legislation supported by the Indiana CPA Society, the statewide professional association for CPAs, was introduced in the Indiana General Assembly as HB 1467. It has the potential to add competency-based education to the current hours-based education model for CPA license renewal in Indiana.

The bill was authored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) and co-authored by Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson), and was assigned to the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee chaired by Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo).

Its purpose is to give CPAs the ability to take only competency-based education, or a combination of competency-based and hours-based education, to satisfy the educational requirements for CPA license renewal. CPAs in Indiana must complete 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years as part of a system created to maintain professional competency that has remained virtually unchanged for nearly 50 years.

The General Assembly will be considering competency-based options for both professionals and students this session. The draft legislation for CPAs coincides with draft legislation for K-12 education that also calls for competency-based learning.

“We believe that this is the ‘next step’ toward significant reform of the requirements for CPA license renewal in Indiana,” said INCPAS President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE. “This draft, if enacted, will provide Indiana CPAs with additional flexibility in learning options to renew their Indiana CPA license. It would give the Indiana Board of Accountancy the opportunity to explore this new learning alternative beyond traditional continuing professional education. Competency-based education has been proven to be a much more effective method of learning.”

Competency-based education is a method of education that has checks in place to measure that a certain competency level in the course material is attained. Hours-based education only counts time spent in a classroom with no proof of subject matter learned. In 2016, the Society was instrumental in expanding the ethics education requirement for CPAs to include a competency-based course or experience serving in an ethics capacity (an hours-based course remains as a third option). That rule change was approved by the Board of Accountancy in July and signed by Gov. Mike Pence in September. Additionally, a pilot program was adopted by the Board of Accountancy in 2014 to allow for up to two competency-based courses to count toward a waiver of up to 16 hours of education. That pilot program remains in effect.

The ethics rule change made Indiana the first state in the nation to allow competency-based education to officially count toward CPA license renewal. Now, this draft legislation is the first of its kind for the CPA profession in any state. It would give the Board of Accountancy the flexibility to set any amount of competency-based education, up to the full equivalent of 120 hours, to meet the professional education requirement. The draft legislation also includes a section that would require the submission and approval of a learning plan prior to participating in competency-based education.

“The Indiana CPA Society is the recognized leader in advocating for competency-based education for CPAs, and other professionals as well,” said John Sauder, CPA, CGMA, of Carmel, Ind., INCPAS chairman of the board. “This legislation could have a widespread impact throughout the United States, and begin a transformation of the profession’s education system that is long overdue for a major overhaul. Hours-based education simply does not meet the needs of today’s CPAs, and by extension, their clients and employers.”

The CPA profession in the United States is regulated on a state-by-state basis, but a major development such as this in any one state has the potential to have a carry-over effect to many other states. Nationally, the American Institute of CPAs’ Future of Learning Task Force recommended sweeping change to the professional development model in a report published in 2014. Competency-based education was a major aspect of the recommendations and concepts outlined in the report.

The Indiana CPA Society is poised to help facilitate competency-based learning in Indiana and beyond. The CPA Center of Excellence®, established in 2014 and powered by the Society, already offers online competency-based course modules in six vital business skills as well as a competency-based ethics course. Additional courses on other non-technical and technical topics could be developed over the next several years.

Digital badges continue to gain momentum, particularly among Millennials

December 15, 2016By CPA Center of Excellence® NewsroomNews

Recent studies have found that digital badges are growing in popularity, particularly among millennials. While most of the growth has happened at educational institutions, professional associations are becoming more and more active in issuing them for the professional education they provide. In addition, the understanding and acceptance of digital badges by employers to signify skill proficiency has also been on an upward trend.

Digital Badges

The Indiana CPA Society, through the CPA Center of Excellence®, was among the first associations in the United States to offer digital badges for completion of courses and achievement of competency. As of mid-August, 287 digital badges have been awarded for seven courses that cover the topic areas of leadership, communications, critical thinking, decision making, entrepreneurship, collaboration and networking, and social media. All but the last are core competencies of the CPA profession.

“Digital badges are not only true badges of accomplishment that validate completion and competency of a skill, but they symbolically represent the future of learning,” said Indiana CPA Society President & CEO Gary Bolinger, CAE. “The usage of digital badges will continue to increase in professional education as demand for online learning grows and expands in today’s digital learning environment.

“The concept of the digital badge is a viable alternative to measuring learning for CPAs in 50 minute hours,” added Bolinger about the current hours-based professional education model. “The demonstration of competency through earning a digital badge is a much better process for verification of successful completion than confirmation that a professional sat in a seminar for some period of time.”

The two courses awarding the most digital badges so far have been critical thinking with 74 and leadership with 59. The courses are online and interactive in format, with course participants learning as much or more from collaboration with others than they do from the course material itself. They can be accessed from any type of device and started and stopped at multiple points to give flexibility for when and where the courses can be worked on. Currently, through a pilot program with the Indiana Board of Accountancy, up to two courses may count for a waiver of up to 16 hours of continuing professional education credit.

“In addition to the digital badges they offer, the online courses themselves are unique and the first-of-their-kind for the CPA profession in the United States,” said Jess Halverson Bowyer, strategist for the CPA Center of Excellence®. “Their format, the platform that is used, the elements that are part of it, and the overall concept of using a competency-based approach has never before been available to CPAs. We’ve had more than 550 CPAs begin taking the courses, and the feedback we have received so far has been phenomenal.”

A new online course on ethics is finished and will be available soon. It was developed to coincide with the rule proposal that was adopted by the Board of Accountancy in July to allow for a competency-based ethics course to count toward the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal. Final approvals should occur by November, and that time it will be the first time in the nation that a competency-based course has been approved for CPA license renewal.

New Ethics course expands options for Indiana CPAs

December 15, 2016By CPA Center of Excellence® NewsroomNews

Call it another “first” for Indiana and the CPA profession. A first-of-its-kind online, competency-based course on ethics is due to be released this week. It coincides with the effective date of a landmark rule change that makes Indiana CPAs the first CPAs in the nation to be able to take competency-based education as one of three options to meet the ethics requirement for CPA license renewal.

History was made in July with the adoption of the rule change for CPAs in Indiana that allows for competency-based education to count toward the profession’s ethics requirement. The rule change also adds experience serving in an ethics capacity as a second new option. The rule change was signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in September, and after being published for 30 days on the Indiana Register, it officially becomes effective on October 22.

EthicsScreenshot.jpgIn anticipation of the historic rule change – in the making since the fall of 2015 – the CPA Center of Excellence® developed a competency-based ethics course focused on the profession’s Code of Professional Conduct that matches the intention of the new rule. Its online interactive format includes links to online articles, video components, case studies, real-time discussion with other course participants, and other participatory features within each of its various modules.

The CPA Center of Excellence®, which is powered by the Indiana CPA Society, is a recognized leader in competency-based education. Flexibility and convenience are other key attributes of the course. It can be taken on any type of device, from a smartphone to a desktop computer, and can be paused and resumed at various points to fit the course-taker’s schedule. There is a 90-day window to complete the course. Upon successful completion, course participants receive a digital badge to verify their achievement.

“The ethics course that we are rolling out with the CPA Center of Excellence® requires each participant to be more accountable. It requires them to participate and engage in the course from start to finish,” said Kent Williams, CPA, CGMA, of Russiaville, Ind., an associate professor of business at Indiana Wesleyan University and an ethics subject matter expert who helped develop the course. “I think this course injects a lot more rigor and accountability on the part of the participant, and that it’s a more engaging course.”

Competency-based education, which necessitates the demonstration and mastery of subject material before awarding successful completion, has proven to be a much more effective and retentive method of learning. Currently, professional education for CPAs in Indiana and other states uses an hours-based system in which participants must only count hours spent in a classroom or taking a webinar.The new course has been tested by several INCPAS members, including the CPA Center of Excellence® Board of Directors and the INCPAS Ethics Committee. All of them have given it high praise and rave reviews.

“I think this new course is a really good option because you can do it at your own pace, which allows you to give it more thought,” said Lorita Bill, CPA, of Lafayette, Ind., with Lorita K. Bill, CPA Consulting LLC. “I really found myself thinking about it after the course, and applying it to my educational experiences. It made me very mindful of what I learned after I was done with the course, and I don’t remember having this same effect in a (prior) course I took on ethics that was classroom-based.”

Joe Scheidler, CPA, of Indianapolis, a retired Crowe Horwath LLP partner, said: “I found the new ethics course to be excellent. It was thorough, covering professional standards and the role of the INCPAS Ethics Committee, but I particularly liked the case studies. Both cases involved real life situations facing CPAs and considered the situation from multiple perspectives. I also spent time considering responses of other participants. This course far exceeded the learning results of any prior ethics training I’ve completed.”

BGBC Partners, LLC Managing Partner Steve Eichenberger, CPA, GGMA of Plainfield, Ind., summed up his thoughts in just a few words. “It’s the best ethics course I have ever taken. As soon as it is available, I plan to purchase it for my entire staff.” The course is priced at $99, much less than most traditional classroom courses. It can be purchased by CPAs nationally and even globally through the CPA Center of Excellence®, although in other states it does not currently count toward CPA license renewal. The Center also offers six other online competency-based courses that cover vital business skills such as leadership and critical thinking. For more information on the new ethics course, go to To watch more about how it works, go to this Ethics course overview video.

The CPA Center of Excellence® was established in 2014 to enhance vital skills for the success of CPAs and other professionals through competency-based learning and intelligent collaboration. It recently received the prestigious national Power of A Summit Award from the American Society of Association Executives on October 5 in Washington, D.C. The Indiana CPA Society became the first state CPA society to receive a Power of A Summit Award in the 17 years that the award has been in existence.


A Better Option for Ethics Education

October 19, 2016By Dennis Hickle, CPALearning and Career Development, News

The CPA Center of Excellence® is making headlines with the development of the first competency-based course that, beginning October 22, qualifies to meet the ethics requirement in Indiana. As a current educator who also maintains a small public accounting practice, as well as having prior experience in financial services and internal audit, I have seen it all when it comes to education for both students and professionals.

Dennis Hickle - Accounting
Dennis Hickle

I had the opportunity to take the new ethics course and would like to explain what makes it such an effective learning tool. One of the first things you will notice is how actively engaged you are with course material. You are expected to interact with other participants through online discussion forums during the entire course. You will be asked to share your opinions and observations as you progress through each module of the course.

The online interactive format makes it possible for the material to be presented using a variety of sources and mediums. For example, you will be asked to read articles and comment on them, and watch video clips and provide your opinions concerning the application of ethical principals in a variety of situations. This is the feature that truly differentiates this course from other CPE courses I have seen. As an educator I am always looking for ways to increase student engagement and interaction. The variety of presentation techniques helps keep you interested and actively involved with the material. Because you are actively engaged and required to react to the content, you will effectively assimilate and retain the information. In this course you don’t just absorb information, you are required to not only think about how to use it but also apply it.

Another key aspect of the course is that this method of learning also gives you flexibility and control as a learner. You are able to access the training program on any type of device with an internet connection at any time of the day or night. This allows you to complete the ethics CPE requirements on your schedule and in a way that works for you (you do have a 90-day window to complete the course once you start it). You can stop the program at any point and restart again from where you left off.

Unlike a traditional CPE course that awards credit based on the amount of time you spend sitting in class, this program awards credit based on your active participation and successful completion of the program modules. You can take as much or as little time as you need to master the content as you move through it. You can also access the information again at a later date to refresh your understanding of the issues covered in the training.

This is an engaging, multi-sensory learning experience. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to satisfy your ethics requirement by taking this new course. And after experiencing this new approach to learning, I encourage you to provide the staff at the Indiana CPA Society with your feedback and suggestions for improvements or for new programs on other subject material that you would like to see developed by the CPA Center of Excellence®.

I am always excited to see innovative approaches to learning such as the competency-based course I described above. I strongly support this style of learning, and I hope other Indiana CPAs embrace it as well.

Want to learn more? Visit our Ethics Course page or watch the video below.